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Here's A Hot Dog You've Got To Relish

Jan. 24, 1983
Jan. 24, 1983

Table of Contents
Jan. 24, 1983

Joaquin Andujar
Pro Basketball
Hockey
TV/Radio
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

Here's A Hot Dog You've Got To Relish

If there's any one word that describes St. Louis Pitcher Joaquin Andujar, it would most surely be "Youneverknow"

When we left Joaquin Andujar, the St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, he was getting carried away. Following the seventh inning of the seventh game of the 79th World Series, Andujar, while screaming at Milwaukee Second Baseman Jim Gantner, was ushered off the field in the considerable embrace of Umpire Lee Weyer. And even the 6'6", 258-pound Weyer needed help from Cardinal Pitching Coach Hub Kittle to point Andujar in the right direction.

This is an article from the Jan. 24, 1983 issue Original Layout

Gantner, also screaming, was upset over the way Andujar had held his comebacker until the last instant before firing over to first. "I called him a hot dog," said Gantner. "What's wrong with that? Everybody knows he's a hot dog."

"He tells me, 'You're a hot dog [hyphenated epithet],' " Andujar, who was lifted after the seventh because Manager Whitey Herzog thought he'd pitched enough, said in a postgame press conference. The conference was unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) broadcast to the milling Cardinal fans in Busch Stadium. "I tell him '[Fie on] you, [hyphenated epithet]. [Fie on] you, I'm going to kick your [bottom].' But we're friends. That's baseball. That's me. I don't take no [guff] from nobody."

It was a funny way to end a World Series.

With apologies to Sir Winston, Andujar is a riddle wrapped in a hot dog role inside an enigma. He calls himself "one tough Dominican." He's also one charming, evasive, humble, egotistical, intelligent, suspicious and generous Dominican. And he's one tough Dominican to get to know.

"My favorite word in English, and I love this word," says Andujar, "is 'youneverknow.' " He designs houses and disrupts clubhouses. His ties to his hometown of San Pedro de Macorís are so tight that his house is around the corner from his former high school, yet he fancies himself a cowboy from Texas. He has 21 rocking chairs in his house, which is ironic, because more than once he has been accused of being off his rocker. (Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas, no steady rocker himself: "Joaquin is missing all of the face cards.") The same man who has fought teammates, has poured milk on his head after a loss and sometimes wears a one-sleeved warmup jacket to protect his non-pitching left arm, also spends $5,000 every Christmas on gifts for his town's children and sponsors countless youth baseball teams there. After the Series he successfully fought a three-year suspension from the Dominican winter league, and then quit after one game because he was getting too much publicity. Youneverknow.

Andujar loves the sound of rain on the roof. "I am the happiest man in the world when I am lying in bed and hearing the pitter-patter of the rain overhead," he says. He enjoys the sound so much that when he had a second floor added to his house, he had two giant red aluminum disks inserted in the concrete roof over his bedroom. He now gets his pitter-patter in stereo.

"When I was small, I always dreamed of getting a house like I have now," Andujar says. "I was raised in humbleness, and the house that I lived in had a zinc roof. I liked listening to the rain fall on it, especially at night, and I liked to sleep and dream when it rained. I thank God and the Virgin Altagracia my dreams came true."

Youneverknow.

San Pedro de Macorís is a town of 74,693 citizens on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic. San Pedro is in sugarcane country, and its rum is among the best in the world. The town's secondary product could well be baseball players, because starting with Rico Carty in 1963 San Pedro has sent numerous native sons to the majors, including, currently, L.A.'s Pedro Guerrero and Toronto's Alfredo Griffin.

Kittle managed the Estrellas club in San Pedro for many years and has known Andujar since he was a youngster. "I'm not sure why so many good players come from there," says Kittle. "Maybe it's because while their moms and dads worked in the sugarcane factories, the kids played all day. A lot of the competitive spirit comes from their bloodlines. There's a little Arab blood mixed in there, you know. Also, a lot of the good players, like Jack Andujar, stay in San Pedro and teach the kids. Plus the stadium is made available."

Joaquin—only Kittle is allowed to call him Jack—was an only child. His father and mother were too poor to give him a proper home, so his paternal grandfather, Saturnino, and grandmother, Juana, raised him.

Basketball, not baseball, was his first love as a boy. "To be very sincere with you, I was a very good player," he says. "But in the Dominican, basketball 20 years ago was nothing. I started playing baseball when I was 10 years old. I learned it in the streets with a rag ball and broomstick." Even at 10, Andujar says, he wanted to be a professional.

In 1969, at age 16, he got his wish when he, Santo Alcala, who has since pitched for the Expos, and Arturo DeFreitas, who has had a few cups of coffee with the Reds, signed with Cincinnati.

In the early years of his pro career, Andujar got a lot of help from Kittle, who became his manager during the winter. "The first season I managed Estrellas, I gave Jack a tryout and I liked his arm," says Kittle. "I got him to come over the top, and he began to produce. The next year I made him one of my starters, and the third season he was named native pitcher of the year.

"At night, we used to talk in the sidewalk cafe at the Hotel Macorix, me, Jack and [former Mariner] Juan Bernhardt, who was Jack's buddy. I told them what it was like in the majors, and what it would take to get there. I told them they'd have to do as they were told."

Although Andujar's minor league statistics weren't at all outstanding, the Reds thought he would make the major leagues in 1975. But lack of control—of his pitches and his temper—kept him down in the minors. In October 1975, on the recommendation of Houston's pitching coach, Hub Kittle, the Astros traded pitchers Carlos Alfonso and Luis Sanchez to Cincinnati for Andujar. However, Kittle was out of the Astro organization before Andujar threw his first pitch in a Houston uniform.

Andujar became an immediate sensation with the Astros. In his fifth and sixth starts, he pitched two-hitters. Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson, whose team was one of Andujar's victims, said at the time, "Every dog will have his day." Andujar finished the year 9-10, three of his victories having come against the Reds. In 1977 he was off to a fast start, with 10 wins before the All-Star break, and Anderson named the dog to the National League All-Star team. But a pulled hamstring kept Andujar out of the game, and he had only one more victory the rest of the year. He was shuffled between the bullpen and the rotation in 1978, but in '79 he again made the All-Star team off his 11-5 start. Still, he finished the season at 12-12. Andujar, who never saw eye to eye with Houston Manager Bill Virdon or Pitching Coach Mel Wright, lit candles the next year and prayed that he would be traded. He was heard to say, "I'm going to Yugoslavia. See you sometime."

While Andujar's career languished, his stature as a character grew. There was the spilled milk incident, and after another loss he showered with his uniform on. He duked it out with his best friend, Cesar Cedeño, and then said, "I was only trying to keep my heavyweight championship." At spring training in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Andujar stepped out of the batter's box because a butterfly distracted him. Coach Bunny Mick asked him what he would do if that happened in the regular season. "No problem," said Andujar. "No butterflies in Dome."

While in Houston, Andujar also developed a taste for the Old West. His favorite TV show became Bonanza, and he still wears cowboy hats and listens to a tape of a Houston country and western station on his car stereo. His pitching trademark is right out of the Old West, too. After a particularly gratifying strikeout, he will point his index finger at the batter and go bang.

Just before the 1981 player strike, Andujar's prayers were answered when he was traded to the Cardinals. As luck would have it—youneverknow—Kittle was Whitey Herzog's pitching coach. When the strike ended, Kittle went to work on Andujar.

"His delivery was way off," says Kittle. "His front leg was too quick, his motion wasn't tight enough, and he was delivering the ball three-quarters instead of over the top. Also, he was overthrowing. But Jack is the hardest-working guy I've ever coached if he believes in you."

Andujar had no trouble believing in the man he calls "Daddy." "Daddy has always respected me and I have respected him," he says. "We've never had any problems. When he was my manager in the Dominican, he tried to help me, and if some person tries to help you, you'll love him very much."

By showing faith in Andujar, Kittle and Herzog helped the pitcher regain confidence in himself. "We Latins are very sensitive," says Winston Llenas, the manager of Andujar's winter league team, las Aguilas. "You kick a U.S. player, and sometimes he plays harder. You kick a Latin, and he gets down on himself."

Andujar always has had the arm. He keeps it in shape by constantly doing curls with a 10-pound lead ball covered in white tape. He has never had any serious arm trouble. He can come over the top and throw the ball 90-plus mph, or he can come from third base and whip the ball at the same speed. But until he arrived in St. Louis, he either had no idea of what he was doing, or too many ideas. And he'd been trying too hard.

Says Virdon, who was fired by the Astros last August and is now the Expos' manager, "I would never be surprised at anything Joaquin did. We knew his talent was outstanding, but we weren't able to keep him within himself, keep him from overthrowing. Whitey and Hub stayed with him, and he's done what we thought he could do. Sometimes personality has something to do with it. But you've got to give Joaquin a little credit for finding out what he had to do."

So at age 29, equipped with a new delivery, a renewed spirit and the same old arm, Andujar became one of the best pitchers in baseball in 1982. About the only thing he lacked was luck. His record of 15-10 could just as easily have been 22-3. In only one of his 37 starts did he give up more than four runs, and his ERA of 2.47 tied for second in the league.

Success didn't put a crimp in Andujar's antic ways, however. He explains his clubhouse manner by saying, "I try to drive everybody crazy." Through most of the season, he kept up a verbal battle with Shortstop Ozzie Smith, who delighted in irritating Andujar by calling him Jack. Says Smith, "When he starts getting hyper out there, I'll go to the mound and stand there. He'll say, 'Get out of here, you little midget.' Then he's all right."

Andujar is also a switch-hitter the likes of which baseball has never seen. He bats righthanded against all southpaws and against righties he doesn't know or trust because, he says, "If they throw at me, I don't want to get hit in my pitching arm." He bats lefthanded against righties he trusts because he makes better contact. He always bunts righthanded because he bunts better from that side.

But in his special way, Andujar makes perfect sense. He insisted on taking batting practice during the Series even though the DH rule was in effect. "Since I have seven months of taking batting practice every time I pitch, why in the World Series, which is like any other game, shouldn't I take batting practice?" he says. "I pitch better when I take batting practice." Of course.

Two of the most vividly remembered episodes of the '82 Series involved Andujar. In the seventh inning of the third game, he was coasting along with a two-hit shutout when Ted Simmons hit a smash off his right knee. Andujar, in deep pain, writhed on the ground, and his career flashed before everybody's eyes. He had to be carried off the field.

But five days later, he started the seventh game and won, leaving in slightly different, but equally memorable fashion. "My knee bothered me from the first inning on," Andujar said afterward, "but I told my teammates, don't worry, nobody's going to beat me tonight." Two months after Simmons' shot, Andujar still carries a sizable bump below his right knee. He's also a little pained that he didn't win the Series MVP award.

Andujar came back to the Dominican a hero, maybe that baseball-mad country's biggest baseball hero since Juan Marichal. But he was also about to serve the second year of a three-year suspension from the Escogido club. It seems that Andujar and the team management had had some differences in 1981 as to when he would pitch. But, according to Andujar, the president of the republic, Salvador Jorge Blanco, intervened, and last November Andujar's contract was traded to las Aguilas. He was also offered a villa in Santiago if he would pitch for them. Youneverknow.

Andujar has two houses in San Pedro de Macorís. Only one is habitable. The other is a dream that became a nightmare. Andujar has a real interest in architecture, and he hopes to study the subject formally. Two years ago he began building a huge house of his own design across from the Universidad Central del Este.

It stands there, still unfinished, a monument to overreaching. Andujar tried too hard. The cement walls were misshaped and are now cracked. Horses use the house for shade. A squatter lives in back under a shelter constructed of unused cement blocks. Andujar was going to put a dome over the house, just like the one in Houston, but now he has all but given up trying to rescue the place.

The house Joaquin lives in with his wife, Walkiria, who is also his accountant, and his 3-year-old son, Jesse, is easy to find, although not by map. Drive to any street corner in San Pedro, hail a small boy and let him guide you to the bright red two-story edifice.

The first floor was built years ago by Saturnino, but the second floor is of Joaquin's design. The spacious patio above the street catches a nice breeze and looks out on the schoolyard of the Jose Joaquin Perez high school, where Andujar played as a boy.

Three days before he's to pitch in his first game for las Aguilas, Andujar is chatting away in one of his rockers. "Being called a fantoche [hot dog] doesn't bother me," he says. "Whoever plays baseball strong, they call him a hot dog. People think I'm crazy, but I'm not. Maybe sometimes I do funny things, but it's only because I'm being natural.

"Would you like a beer? It's great to be alive because when you are dead, you can't drink beer. On the field, I have no friends. I'm a mean sonofabitch. But off the field, I can be very nice."

Andujar points with pride to nearly everything in the house: the curtains, the flowers, the pennants, the bar, the stereo, the hundred or so land crabs he raises out back. His biggest joy is his bedroom, with the giant red disks in the ceiling. "I hear the rain and remember where I came from," he says.

House tour over, he heads off to lunch at El Piano restaurant. Through his car window he shouts, "Hasta el diablo," at friends in the street. Over lunch he says, "Before the Cardinals got me, I was like a plant that needed water. Whitey and Hub, they poured water on me, and I grew to be a tree. With the World Series, the fruits came up. Not bad, huh?"

Later he makes an appointment for the next day. But the next day he vanishes. And the day after that? Youguessedit.

Normally there would be 8,000 people in Santiago's Estadio Cibao for a Sunday game between las Aguilas and Licey, but there are more than 17,000 this time, many of them hanging over the fences. Andujar is to make his first Dominican League appearance in two years, and the game is being nationally televised.

Andujar has thrown exactly twice since the World Series. In batting practice two weeks before, he didn't allow any of his teammates to hit a ball out of the infield. He also warmed up lightly a week before this start. Nobody knows what to expect, least of all Manager Llenas, who's worried about Andujar's invaluable right arm.

On the sidelines, Andujar warms up as if he's pitching to the heart of the Milwaukee batting order. When he takes the mound, he receives a nice round of applause. In the first four innings, Andujar allows only a harmless single. Then, in the fifth, with las Aguilas ahead 3-0, Andujar gets Champ Summers to hit a soft comebacker. Andujar holds the ball until the last possible instant before firing to First Baseman Mike Laga, who's taken aback. With a count of 2-2 on Luis Pujols, Andujar throws a perfect slider—and shoots Pujols with his forefinger. Then he knocks down Tony Fernando, the only man to get a hit off him, before retiring him on a grounder. He leaves the field, under his own power this time.

In five innings against a team at least as good as the Reds, Andujar has allowed no runs, one hit and two walks and struck out six. As he heads for his shower he says, "I didn't have it today."

Youneverknow.

TWO PHOTOSMANNY MILLANAndujar's first—and last—winter league start in two years had an overflow crowd.PHOTOMANNY MILLANAndujar, in one of his 21 rockers, with Jesse and Walkiria.PHOTOMANNY MILLANAndujar designed this home to have a dome; instead it has horses and a hobo.PHOTOMANNY MILLANThe rain on the red metal disks reminds Andujar of his boyhood.PHOTOMANNY MILLANAndujar got carried both off and away in the Series.